The government that will come to power following the 2022 General Election will be corruption-ridden, just like the current one. Here is why.
First, none of the presidential aspirants has, so far, indicated s/he will run on an anti-corruption platform. Without doubt, corruption is Kenya's enemy Number One - it has driven many of our institutions to the brink of collapse and denied citizens crucial services. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was elected on the platform of fighting corruption and drug abuse. Many complain that he has gone overboard in these fights. However, everyone knew what he stood for as a candidate.
As we edge closer to 2022, not a single candidate has promised to invest heavily in sealing the legal, procurement and project implementation gaps through which the taxpayer's money is siphoned. Their manifestos are likely to gross over the issue of corruption. But, even if this were to be prioritised on paper, we are yet to see a candidate who is truly committed to fighting corruption in word and deed. Consequently, our institutions of governance and service delivery will continue to weaken.
Second, unlike many other countries, political campaigns in Kenya have been going on for the past two years and can only intensify in the remaining two years. We know that campaigns are very expensive to mount and sustain. The millions of shillings that have been used in the last two years will be nothing compared to the heavy investments underway as we move closer to 2022. Pray, who invests where they do not expect returns?
Let us be honest. For every penny invested in the campaigns, a handsome return is expected. There is no budget line that is normally set aside as 'return for investment in the campaign' from which both the victors and losers will draw. The only way to avoid losses and make more money is to ensure that once in power, directly or indirectly, the investments made pay off – and big time. The best way to do that is to use office powers to bend the law. If the law is strictly followed, most of the candidates campaigning for elective posts would not even attempt to vie. It won’t be cost-effective. More than ever, the next crop of elected leaders will work extra hard to reap from a battered economy as they must make positive returns for their campaign investment.
Third, there have been promises after promises that corruption will not be tolerated in the use of public funds. In spite of the seemingly well-intentioned and well-coordinated efforts to deal with mega corrupt individuals, sometimes spiced with high drama, nothing much has stopped outright theft of taxpayer’s money, including borrowed and donated funds from our international development partners. The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority scandal is a case in point. Do we need another year of investigations to identify those who hatched the plot and gained from it?
Notably, the government promised several times that it would not tolerate any form of corruption in the use of Covid-19 funds. It also distanced itself from cartels in the Ministry of Health. Since the government seems unable to stamp its feet and root out mega corruption, low-level corrupt suspects will continue to be hammered “to serve as examples”. This means that money from corrupt sources will find its way to the campaigns, and as usual, the suspects will be rewarded by the loyal voter, who only cares for “what I receive now.”
Consequently, anyone who will be elected in 2022 will spend time repaying debts, drawing profits from campaigns investment or paying campaign sponsors.
What, then, is the conclusion? In a country where the government is weak in dealing with mega corruption, new regimes will generously indulge in the same practice.
Fourth, Kenyans believe corruption is impossible to eradicate. Well, we may argue on this, but every available evidence from securing jobs, recruitment into various government institutions, county governments becoming new cells of incubating corruption, the needy finding politicians an easier source of financial reprieve, to spectating helplessly at many high level corruption cases media have so courageously exposed, shows that the culture of corruption is well protected by its well-placed beneficiaries. Our helplessness to “do anything corruption” imprisons us to political patronage.
Our hope is in civic freedom. We need a free civic engagement space to challenge for our rights to an accountable and transparent ruling regime.
Dr Mokua is Executive Director, Loyola Center for Media and Communications